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The importance of the right soap
Ordinary commercial soaps have pH levels between 9 to 11, which increases the skin pH level, leading to problems, writes Dr Nivedita Dadu
Showering and bathing is a part of daily life. However, it is good to be informed about the bath products, especially soaps, which we use on a daily basis. Soaps are cleansing agents made by mixing animal or vegetable fat. Choosing the right bath soap is especially important since it regularly comes into contact with your skin. The skin’s pH level is a major factor contributing to skin problems. We have to keep in mind that ordinary commercial soaps have pH levels between 9 to 11, which increases the skin pH level, leading to problems.
First of all remember that soap should not be directly applied to the skin. It should be mixed with water and the lather produced should be applied on the body. Extra care has to be taken while cleaning areas where there is more perspiration or itching.
Soaps and cleansers shouldn’t be used frequently on the face as they can make the skin dry and irritable. There is a variety of soaps available in the market, like bar soaps, shower gels, anti-bacterial soaps, herbal soaps, aromatherapy soaps etc. Let’s look at a few types of soaps that are available in the market:
Antibacterial soaps: These soaps have an added antibacterial agent like triclosan or trichlocarbon. The pH is in the range of 9 to 10, and these are available in liquid or solid bar forms. Antibacterial soaps have gained special importance recently. They form the first line of defence against micro- organisms and harmful agents. However, excessive use of these soaps can cause dryness and irritation of the skin. Most of the deodorant soaps contain antibacterial agents.
There is a myth among Indian consumers that one should use anti-bacterial soaps for bathing, but they do not know that some germs are good for the body too; it is the necessity of the body and we shouldn’t kill them.
Anti-acne soaps: Many soaps with antibacterial, exfoliating and comedolytic (that inhibit formation of blemishes) properties are now available. Anti-acne soaps are used mainly on the face, chest and back where acne is more prevalent. It may be necessary to use such soaps twice a day. However, overuse can cause red flaky patches on the skin.
Herbal soaps: These contain gentle herbs and plants like chamomile, lavender, peppermint, spearmint, oatmeal and avocado. Olive oil and shea butter can also be used in these soaps. Olive oil, known for its skin regeneration and radiance properties, contains vitamins and antioxidants that keep free radicals that damage your skin at bay.
Moisturising soaps: Soaps that contains olive oil, shea butter, paraffin, glycerine etc that give softness to your skin are the best moisturising soaps. Olive oil also has an anti-ageing effect on your skin. Shea butter, also known as shea nut butter, contains vitamins and acts as a good moisturiser.
Shower gels: These are similar to liquid soaps but in a gel-based preparation and are used for cleaning the body while showering.
Aromatherapy soaps: These soaps contain essential oils, jojoba and sunflower oil, extracts of chamomile, jasmine and ylang-ylang. They are said to promote a sense of well-being and relaxation.
You should always purchase soaps keeping in mind your skin type:
Dry skin: Choose from natural soaps that contain aloe vera, cocoa butter, avocado or vegetable oils.
Oily skin: One should use antibacterial soaps or specific face cleansers. Soaps containing lavender, chamomile, and thyme are very effective for oily skin.
Sensitive skin: If your skin is sensitive and prone to infections, medicated soaps are best to prevent and treat skin infections. Soaps that contain Vitamin E and jojoba oil are good for dry skin diseases like ichthyosis, eczema, and psoriasis.
Glycerin-based soaps: Such soaps suit people with a combination skin type.
Anti-acne soaps: These are used mainly on the face, chest, and back where acne is more prevalent. Use twice a day.
Seek immediate medical help if you experience allergy or infections.
The writer is a Dermatologist at Skinology Skin and Hair Clinic, and Senior Consultant at BL Kapur Hospital, Delhi
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